“Classic British Political Cinema”
With Ken Loach’s I, DANIEL BLAKE doing well on the UK art house cinema circuit at the moment, Eureka have picked a good time to release his adaptation of Barry Hines’ novel A Kestrel for a Knave on Blu-ray.
Barnsley, 1969. Young Billy Caspar is working class, fatherless (because the man has left) and lives in a filthy terraced house with his mother (CORONATION STREET regular Lynne Perrie) and older brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher). Schooldays consist of the regular mixture of bullying and humiliation that was par for the course in the UK back then.
Billy finds escape in comics before discovering a kestrel’s nest. ‘Liberating’ one of the birds in the same way he ‘liberates’ a book on training them from a second hand bookshop, Billy spends his free time caring for and training his pet falcon. English teacher Mr Farthing (Colin Welland) provides encouragement, as do some of his fellow students, but tragedy strikes.
KES was not Ken Loach’s first film (he had already made POOR COW with Carol White & Terence Stamp in 1967) but it remains perhaps his most historically significant one. The first film to give an unflinching view of English working class life, KES revolutionised an English cinema movement that had itself been soundly shaken up by social realist movies like Karel Reisz’s SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING only a few years earlier. Strong regional accents, non-professional actors, and a fine and moving story that allows the film’s subtext (which isn’t especially sub to be honest) to feel neither preachy nor hammered home.
Eureka’s Blu-ray comes with two soundtrack dialogue options - ‘full Barnsley’ or the 'International-friendly accent' version requested by United Artists at the time. There’s also an isolated music and effects track with score by John PSYCHOMANIA Cameron that was described by Jarvis Cocker as ‘reminiscent of damp duffle coats in dusty school cloakrooms’.
There are interviews with star David Bradley, producer Tony Garnett, DP Chris Menges, John Cameron and ‘Kestrel Advisor’ Richard Hines amongst others. You also get the 1992 Ken Loach Guardian lecture, and footage from the 2006 KES reunion panel.
Ken Loach's KES is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 7th November 2016